And May the Best Plan Win edition





September 18th, 2014


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Ghost Annex, Alexandria Hotel. #DTLA #losangeles by @esotouric

Gentle Reader. . .

Some urban problems are so complicated, so entrenched, that it's easier to look away than to try to solve them. Pershing Square, the oldest public space in Los Angeles, has been on a seemingly unstoppable downward slide, suffering more than a half-century of misguided policy decisions and architectural mis-steps. It had been a long time since anyone took on the Herculean task of addressing the problems of Pershing Square.

So we were interested, a year ago, when a Council District 14 initiative was announced to "re-envision" the horrible park. But after watching the

And so we responded with a

On Wednesday, a press conference was held to announce that the Pershing Square Task Force was no more, and a new non-profit, Pershing SquareNew, had been formed. Gone was the focus on "re-envisioning." Instead, the idea is for a public/private partnership to raise money to hold a design competition. In the mean time, the city has pledged a million dollars to tear up the south side of the park — perhaps not coincidentally, the only area that is shaded all day, where folks who have nowhere else to go spend their time — to build two playgrounds. So even if a design competition is never funded, the experience of Pershing Square will be changing profoundly for its regulars in the very near future.

After the staged announcement, Councilman Huizar took informal questions from the press, and we were there, representing the Pershing Square Restoration Society. Kim asked if John Parkinson's design would have a place in the design competition, and the answer appears to be yes. And how would a winning design be selected? By popular vote. That's encouraging for the historic design that is the choice of hundreds of Angelenos sick of over-designed parks filled with hardscape and cleverness. Hear for yourself here.

While it's impossible to predict if meaningful change is really gonna come in Pershing Square, there's one thing that makes us optimistic.

This time, the park's future is being closely observed by thousands of passionate and engaged citizens. Social media amplifies the message of the restoration campaign, and we can quickly inform interested people where they can make a difference, with an email or by attending a public meeting. Never again will final decisions about important urban spaces be made in the private offices of powerful politicians and wealthy developers, without public notice or discussion. So climb aboard the Pershing Square restoration train. It's going to be a heck of a ride!

We're back on the bus this Saturday, with an East Side Babylon crime bus tour, a twisted journey into the dark side of the California experience. Join us, do!

Upcoming Tours and Happenings

Go East, young ghoul, and visit Boyle Heights, where the Night Stalker was captured and a mad dad ran amok. Roam the hallowed lawns of Evergreen, L.A.'s oldest cemetery and home of some memorable haunts and strange burials. Visit East L.A., where a deranged radio shop employee made mince meat of his boss and bride–and you can get your hair done in a building shaped like a giant tamale. Explore the ghastly streets of Commerce, where one small neighborhood's myriad crimes will shock and surprise. Visit Montebello, for scrumptious milk and cookies at Broguiere's Farm Fresh Dairy washed down with a horrifying case of child murder.

The Crown City masquerades as a calm and refined retreat, where well-bred ladies glide around their perfect bungalows and everyone knows what fork to use first. But don't be fooled by appearances. Dip into the confidential files of old Pasadena and meet assassins and oddballs, kidnappers and slashers, Satanists and all manner of maniac in a delightful little tour you WON'T find recommended by the better class of people! From celebrated cases like the RFK assassination (with a visit to Sirhan Sirhan's folks' house), "Eraserhead" star Jack Nance's strange end, black magician/rocket scientist Jack Parsons' death-by-misadventure and the 1926 Rose Parade grand stand collapse, to fascinating obscurities, the tour's dozens of murders, arsons, kidnappings, robberies, suicides, auto wrecks and oddball happening sites provide a alternate history of Pasadena that's as fascinating as it is creepy. Passengers will tour the old Millionaire's Row on Orange Grove, thrill to the shocking Sphinx Murder on the steps of the downtown Masonic Hall and discover why people named Judd should think twice before moving to Pasadena. (Please note that, due to circumstances beyond our control, Crimebo the Crime Clown will not be joining us on this edition of Pasadena Confidential. The tour will contain all the same crimes and stops, but there will be no clowning around.)

Dear friends, it is with no small amount of regret that we are putting the monthly LAVA Sunday Salon and Broadway on My Mind walking tour series on hiatus, effective immediately. Both events take place at Les Noces du Figaro restaurant, which is closing down for several months of renovations. We will be working closely with Jonathan Mgaieth of Figaro to determine a relaunch date as soon as the restaurant reopens, hopefully in early 2015. So stay tuned, and we hope to see you at other LAVA events in the meantime.

New from the deranged minds of Esotouric, an historical crime bus tour meant to honor the lost souls who wander the hills and byways of the "streetcar suburbs" (Echo Park, Silver Lake, Elysian Park, Angeleno Heights) that hug Sunset Boulevard. Climb aboard to see seemingly ordinary houses, streets and commercial buildings revealed as the scenes of chilling crimes and mysteries, populated by some of the most fascinating people you'd never want to meet. Featured cases include Edward Hickman's kidnapping of little Marion Parker and the bizarre "Man in the Attic" love nest slaying, plus dozens of incredible, forgotten tales of Angelenoes in peril. Guests will also see some of the most beautiful historic architecture in Los Angeles, including a visit to Sister Aimee Semple McPherson's exquisite Parsonage, her one-time home, now a museum

Join us on this iconic, unsolved Los Angeles murder mystery tour. Our excursion begins in the historic Olive Street lobby of the Biltmore Hotel and ends in time for you to take tea and crumpets where Beth Short waited out the last hours of her freedom before walking south into hell. After multiple revisions, this is less a murder tour than a social history of 1940s Hollywood female culture, mass media and madness, and we welcome you to join us for the ride. This tour always sells out, so reserve your spot today.

Join us for a journey from the downtown of Chandler's pre-literary youth (but which always lingered at the fore of his imagination) to the Hollywood of his greatest success, with a stop along the way at Tai Kim's Scoops for unexpected gelato creations inspired by the author. We'll start the tour following in the young Chandler's footsteps, as he roamed the blocks near the downtown oil company office where he worked. See sites from Lady in the Lake and The Little Sister, discover the real Philip Marlowe (Esotouric's exclusive scoop, and the inspiration for Kim's novel The Kept Girl), and be steeped in noir LA.

Come explore Charles Bukowski's lost Los Angeles and the fascinating contradictions that make this great local writer such a hoot to explore. Haunts of a Dirty Old Man is a raucous day out celebrating liquor, ladies, pimps and poets. The tour includes a visit to Buk's DeLongpre bungalow, where you'll see the Cultural-Historic Monument sign that we helped to get approved, and a mid-tour provisions stop at Pink Elephant Liquor.

On this guided tour through the Beverly Hills of the early 20th Century, Crime Bus passengers thrill as Jazz Age bootleggers run amok, marvel at the Krazy Kafitz family's litany of murder-suicides, attempted husband slayings, Byzantine estate battles and mad bombings, visit the shortest street in Los Angeles (15' long Powers Place, with its magnificent views of the mansions of Alvarado Terrace), discover which fabulous mansion was once transformed into a functioning whiskey factory using every room in the house, and stroll the haunted paths of Rosedale Cemetery, site of notable burials (May K. Rindge, the mother of Malibu) and odd graveside crimes. Featured players include the most famous dwarf in Hollywood, mass suicide ringleader Reverend Jim Jones, wacky millionaires who can't control their automobiles, human mole bank robbers, comically inept fumigators, kids trapped in tar pits, and dozens of other unusual and fascinating denizens of early Los Angeles.

This is a special day-long edition of our Raymond Chandler bus tour of historic locations in Downtown Los Angeles and Hollywood, coinciding with the 2014 Bouchercon World Mystery Convention and departing from the Hyatt Regency in Long Beach. In addition to visits to The Oviatt Building (The Gillerlain Company in The Lady in The Lake), The Bank of Italy (where Chandler was employed by The Dabney Oil Company), The Barclay Hotel (site of an icepick murder in The Little Sister), The Mayfair Hotel (where a suicidal Chandler kept his mistress), Paramount Studios, Raymond Chandler Square and other iconic locations from the life and work of the master of Los Angeles noir. The excursion includes a no-host lunch stop and a shopping visit to Hollywood's Larry Edmunds Bookshop, the famous cinema collectors store which directly descends from The Stanley Rose Book Shop, whose proprietor was the model for Geiger in The Big Sleep.

From the founding of the city through the 1940s, downtown was the true center of Los Angeles, a lively, densely populated, exciting and sometimes dangerous place. After many quiet decades, downtown is making an incredible return. But while many of the historic buildings remain, their human context has been lost. This downtown double feature tour is meant to bring alive the old ghosts and memories that cling to the streets and structures of the historic core, and is especially recommended for downtown residents curious about their neighborhood's neglected history.

For Richard's once-a-year birthday bus adventure, we invite you to climb aboard for a 7-hour excursion exploring some of the greatest buildings in the Southland that you've never seen–unless you go to a lot of funerals. The tour is hosted by Nathan Marsak, America's wittiest historian of mortuary architecture. Come discover the beauty, secrets and unexpected modernism of Sunnyside Long Beach (1922), Community Mausoleum Anaheim (1914), Fairhaven Santa Ana (1916) and Calvary East Los Angeles (1936). Lunch is included and much merriment will be had. Visit the tour page for more information on this one-time-only event and reserve your spot today.



  • Stop the presses. Gil Cedillo preserved something!
  • Hot enough for ya? Maybe not.
  • Meeting a monster.
  • On the margins of history.
  • The LA City Archives has launched a YouTube channel, through which we learn Chief Parker pronounced it "Los ANG-uh-lus."
  • What flows beneath.
  • The last time the Gamble House was this weird, our architectural history professor Reyner Banham lived there.
  • Now how much would you pay?
  • Occupy Wall Street (remember them?) has done something extraordinary.
  • When metal detecting enthusiasts attack.
  • A couple of independent preservation advocates started the ball rolling. Now the LA Conservancy has sued West Hollywood over its illegal demolition plans.
  • Our favorite secret folk art tile grotto won't be secret for long.
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    Kim and Richard


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